Visit Britain Tourism Sector Deal Conference

Posted 24 Oct, 2019

On 18th September, Visit Britain held the first Tourism Sector Deal conference in Birmingham. Bringing together Tourism stakeholders, more detail was provided on how the deal is being progressed.

Tourism is the 10th industry to have a sector deal. (There were 70 applications for sector deals). The Tourism Sector Deal was developed by the Tourism Industry Council and launched, by the then Prime Minister Theresa May, on 27th June 2019.

In effect, the sector deal is made up of a number of areas that industry and the government are committed to achieving and supporting. Overall it is about increasing productivity. The newly appointed Minister for Tourism, Arts & Heritage Minister, Helen Whatley, opened the conference. Her first speech since being appointed.

The Minister laid out the main elements of the TSD:

- Becoming the most accessible tourism destination in Europe by 2025 (disability)

- Creation of 5 Tourism Zones in the UK

- Development of a data hub

- Skills Development & Recruitment – particularly in Rural and Coastal areas (hard to reach)

Visit Britain, working with Industry, through the Tourism Industry Council, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are taking forward the progress of the TSD.

The Department for the Economy have nominated NITA to the Tourism Industry Council and we will be attending our first meeting before Christmas.


Target to increase number of inbound disabled tourists by 33%. Currently 700,000 visits where a member of the party is disabled (1.9% of UK inbound visits). Although it sounds a significant increase in number terms it is about another 200K visits.

The Accessible tourism market (purple pound) is worth about £12bn in England. By improving accessibility it also impacts on domestic market.

Visit England include Accessible and Inclusive Awards as part of their annual awards.

Northern Ireland has a good story to tell in this area:

- Both Belfast City & City of Derry airports have the highest ranking by CAA.

- 11% of visitors to Titanic Belfast register with a disability

- Titanic Belfast & National Trust are the two case studies used in the TSD

- Orchardville doing work with regard to skills to support those with disability into Tourism

It isn't clear where the responsibility lies for driving the accessibility agenda in NI and how businesses can be supported to improve accessibility - the Discover England fund provides financial support.

Tourism Zones

DCMS had submitted a multi-year funding bid but have only received funding for 1 year from the latest spending round. This in effect has delayed the roll out of the initiative as it is important that funding is able to be provided to Tourism Zones over a 3-5 year period to enable sustainability. The next 12 months will be used the further develop the concept and criteria.

The Tourism Zones are location based and will be driven from the bottom up. This is about increasing productivity through growing the Tourism offering and lengthening the season, particularly in Coastal and rural locations. Tourism Zones are about collaboration with business, DMO’s and Local Government Authorities working together, with the community, to develop and drive the zone and enhance the visitor experience. Potential growth backed by research.

Support provided will include skills development, financial incentives and small scale infrastructure.

Currently 5 Tourism Zones are planned. The question was asked with regard to increasing the number and how this would be spread across the whole of the UK including devolved nations. This will be reviewed as part on the work over the next 12 months.

I asked the question about Clusters and the response was that this would be a benefit within any bid, to show collaboration and then the Tourism Zone support would help to build on the cluster.

It was felt that the Zones will be driven by geography rather than theme and at the moment there are no size restrictions for a zone. Each will have a ‘Chair’ and will include an International dimension. Any bid would have to include how productivity would be boosted.

Japan and Belgium are examples of where Tourism Zones have been implemented.

Data Hub

Most of this session focussed on the 5G pilot project being run at Destination Bristol that allowed for innovations in visitor experience, crowd safety and analysed visitor movement patterns.

EE presented on how mobile data can be used to map visitor movements and transport usage.

Dave Vincent from Tourism NI is engaged with Visit Britain on this project.


This pillar is led by the Industry Board. The targets include:

- 30,000 apprenticeships

- 10,000 mentorships

- In work training provided by 80% employers (was 61% in 2017)

- £1M recruitment and retention campaign led by Employers

- Professionalise the sector

People 1st are leading on

apprenticeship standards including apprenticeships for older people. Also

talked about Leadership development, entrepreneurship and the Future Chef

programme in schools.

Business Tourism

Business tourism is seen as an enabler. There are Event Management degrees being developed.

Visit Britain are seeing less of a need to provide financial support to get conferences. They have spent £70K on 38 events.

Government are there to remove reasons to say no, e.g., remove red tape. Helping to remove risk.

With regard to Brexit. In Europe the finger is on the pause button. Visit Britain are keeping everything positive. Access to Home Office for solid information.

Incentive market booming.

Wrap Up

- Despite political change government are committed to supporting Tourism

- A UK conference is planned on Accessibility to enable sharing of best practice

- DCMS open to feedback and industry urged to continue to engage.